➤ The Blancpain GT Series has arrived in Montmeló for the tenth and final round of the season. Five sprint and four Endurance rounds has brought the European championship to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the 2019 finale. A grand total of 16 titles are still up for grabs this weekend, with both the overall Blancpain GT Series and Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup as the most-coveted prizes still available.
➤ With a 22-point lead and 25 points maximum left to be scored, SMP Racing’s Miguel Molina, Davide Rigon and Mikhail Aleshin (73 points) are the team to beat in the Endurance Cup. The #72 Ferrari 488 GT3’s win in Silverstone began a series of top results for the trio, who are leading the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz (51 points) and the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind (49 points). Both teams’ only chance is to win the title is by winning the race. All SMP Racing has to do is finish 8th if Black Falcon wins, or 9th if FFF Racing wins. That being said, SMP Racing mustered only 13th place on the grid for today’s finale, while Black Falcon and FFF Racing start second and third respectively, a result that plays straight into the hands of both challengers.
➤ In the fight for the overall Blancpain GT championship, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz are leading. The German duo stand at 143.5 points against Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli who have scored 141.5 points over the previous 9 rounds.
➤ Friday afternoon saw the first official track action. As usual, the Bronze drivers were given a 60 minutes Bronze test to familiarize themselves with the Catalan circuit. The fastest time was set by Christoph Lenz, who managed a 1:46.634 in the #29 Raton Racing by Target Lamborgini Huracán GT3 in the 28-car field.
➤ The free practice open to all drivers, on Saturday morning, saw the #2 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 go fastest. Alex Riberas set a time of 1:45.326 which was only 0.002 seconds quicker than Giacomo Altoe in the #519 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
➤ Rowe Racing wrapped up Saturday afternoon’s pre-qualifying session fastest, putting both cars in the top 3. Mathieu Jaminet set the fastest time of 1:44.839 in the #98 Rowe Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R, while teammate Matt Campbell took third in the #99 sister Porsche with a lap of 1:45.156. The duo was split by Dries Vanthoor, the Belgian pilot of the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 clocking a 1:44.951.
➤ The Porsche squad continued its stellar form in the final qualifying session on Sunday morning, grabbing pole position for this afternoon’s 3-hour race. The #98 Rowe Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3 driven by Romain Dumas, Sven Müller and Mathieu Jaminet never topped any one of the three 15-minute sessions, but a series of consistently fast times culminating in a 3-lap average of 1:45.032 put the 911 on top of the overall standings. The #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz starts second, with fellow title challenger #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Albert Costa in third. Championship leader #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Miguel Molina, Mikhail Aleshin and Davide Rigon is only 13th, giving both Black Falcon and FFF Racing hope to win the Endurance Cup if one of them wins the race and SMP fails to finish higher than 9th. QUALIFYING REPORT
➤ Several notable absentees on the entry list this weekend due to a clash with the ADAC GT Masters season finale at the Sachsenring. Grasser Racing has brought a lone Silver Cup Lamborghini as Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart are defending second place in the German championship. Rolf Ineichen has joined Franck Perera – normally competing for FFF Racing in Blancpain GT – for the tightly contested race for second in ADAC GT. Klaus Bachler, winner of the Blancpain GT season opener in Monza, is substituted in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R in Barcelona by Marco Seefried. The Austrian has also set his sights set on second place. Newly crowned ADAC GT Masters champion Kelvin van der Linde closes off his title-winning season at the Sachsenring and is replaced in Barcelona by Valentin Hasse Clot in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3. Marco Mapelli, Dries Vanthoor and Christopher Haase, among others, have elected to go to Barcelona instead.
➤ Also absent, due to illness, is Dennis Lind. Although still in with a longshot at the Endurance Cup title, the Dane foregoes the finale and is replaced in the #563 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 by Albert Costa. The Catalan knows the car well from his successful International GT Open campaign with Emil Frey Racing.
➤ Caldarelli and Mapelli won the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe earlier his month at the Hungaroring. The championship came down to a tie-breaker between the Italians and Engel and Stolz who all had 92.5 points. The final standings were up in the air, however, pending the outstanding Grasser Racing appeal against its disqualification in qualifying at Zandvoort. A penalty for the Grasser team could provide Black Falcon with the necessary points to claim the crown after all, but the RACB National Court of Appeal ruled this weekend that the appeal was admissible and grounded, setting FFF Racing’s title in stone.
➤ Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has hosted the final round of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup for the last three years but will revert to a sprint race weekend in 2020. The Nürburgring retakes its place as the Endurance Cup season finale.
➤ Mercedes-AMG used the paid test sessions on Thursday and Friday to run its Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo 2020. The test is believed to serve as a Balance of Performance test which would allow GruppeM Racing to enter the car in February’s Bathurst 12 Hours. Black Falcon will run the new-spec car at the Nürburgring in the upcoming VLN8 for the car’s first competitive Nordschleife outing.
➤ GPX Racing announced the return of its Spa 24 Hours winning crew for the Kyalami 9 Hour. Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz are all back behind the wheel of the Gulf-coloured Porsche 991.2 GT3R for the South African round.
➤ Pirelli will gradually replace its current DHD2 tyre with the DHE over the course of 2020. Depending on Balance of Performance data, the various SRO series around the world will receive the new Italian rubber.